Introducing: The Law & “Hard Fantasy” Interview Series

Matteson-witch.jpgEarlier this summer, I wrote a post titled Fantasy’s Apocalyptic Turn, about the development of the “hard fantasy” movement in modern fiction. As I commented:

[I]t is worth briefly thinking about the relationship between epic fantasy and law. Although the legal aspects of fantasy role playing games are now well-marked out, there has been little work (outside of the Potterverse) on how fantasy authors imagine legal rules’ role in society. If epic fantasy is read largely by adolescent boys, this missing attention makes a great deal of sense. You don’t see law review articles about Maxim. But, if fantasy, or hard fantasy, has become a literature for the rest of the population, it is worth thinking about the complete and total absence of civil law in these books, and the light touch of criminal law more generally. Is it impossible to imagine lawsuits and magic coexisting in the same society?

This post got some folks blogging – in agreement and dissent.

I’m still interested in the relationship between epic fantastic fiction and law, and I realized that if I really wanted to know about how law makes it way (or doesn’t) into fantasy novels, I might as well ask some actual authors about it. So, I got in touch with a few writers who I consider to be among the best practitioners of “realistic” epic fantasy, and I’ve put questions to them. Now in doing so, I realize that I’m in danger of over-intellectualizing books that require a certain amount of suspended belief to be digested. Worse, really digging into these stories calls to mind E.B. White’s quote about frogs and humor. Indeed, as the picture to the right illustrates, law’s relationship to magic has the potential to be pretty gruesome.

But it’s worth a try. Over the next several months, I’ll be bringing you several author responses. Some terrific folks are already on board, including the reigning king of the movement, George R. R. Martin, and I’m hoping for more responses to trickle in. But our first guest is a newcomer to the genre, Pat Rothfuss, author of the new, acclaimed, novel The Name of the Wind. I’ll be posting my interview with Pat (hopefully) later on in the weekend.

(Image Source: Examination of a Witch, Thompkins H. Matteson, Wikicommons)

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3 Responses

  1. Phoenician in a time of Romans says:

    Hugh Cook, a NZ author, put out a series a while back which reminded me a good deal of Jack Vance. One of the amusing aspects of it was how background characters in one book would show up as protaganists in another, revealing themselves to be very different from how they were perceived by others.

    _The Walrus and the Warwolf” (1988) includes some legal trials as major plot points. Including one (Chapter 40) written as a Gospel to a later religion:

    18 And the Persecutors withdrew, yet returned at noon the next day.

    19 And they found waiting for them a Being dressed in Magnificence, and he was not as other men, for there was thunder on his brow and in his voice also.

    20 And he drew himself up to his Height, and, verily, they looked as Children beside him.

    21 And he said, ‘Lo, behold your doom, for I am Garimanthea the Mighty, the Flail of Righteousness, the Breaker of Strong Men, the Destroyer of Prosperity, for I am barrister, solicitor, notary public and attorney at law.’

    22 Then were the Persectutors frightened exceedingly, and sought to flee.

    23 But it was too late.

  2. Miriam Cherry says:

    Wow. George RR Martin is on board with Concurring Opinions? Wow. Awesome!! 🙂

  3. Jeff says:

    Susanna Clark’s “Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell” briefly describes a separate systems of courts set up in England with jurisdiction to try magic-related offenses, such as impersonating a magician. It’s mildly amusing, but not as amusing as the rest of the book.